Natural Poison Ivy Treatment

Poison Ivy

Poison Ivy is just a part of summer for most people, but it doesn’t have to be.  Treating your exposure quickly and naturally can prevent days or even months of irritation and agony.  This guide will send you off in a good direction to tackle your poison ivy troubles.

Lessen Your Exposure

Our skin reacts to the chemical in poison ivy called, urushiol, which is found primarily between cells of the plant.  Therefore, if you don’t crush it and smash these cells, your exposure will be lessened.  To continue lessening the impact of urushiol, think of it as an oil. If you have dry skin, it will absorb quickly, so be sure to moisturize, moisturize, moisturize before you start your day! (Said every modeling agent ever!)

Treat Poison Ivy Fast!

Still, knowing how to reduce your exposure doesn’t help when you are already exposed.  About 4 years ago I did some yard work for a lady in Mount Ida, Arkansas who coated her arms and exposed legs with a little olive oil before going out to work in the poison-ivy infested garden. After work, she washed the oil off and that helped her a lot. It has helped me as well, but there are a few caveats:

Within 10 to 20 minutes, over half of the urushiol, you have come into contact with will be absorbed into your skin. The best treatment is to immediately rinse the area with alcohol. I use 70% or 90% isopropyl and have also had success with Vodka, Whiskey, and other high proof liquors. I’m sure some of the local “shine” would work well too.

If you are carefully cutting out poison ivy from your property, use disposable gloves, make clean cuts and don’t crush the plants, and use alcohol on your pruners when you are done so you don’t infect yourself the next time you want to prune the roses!


After rinsing with alcohol, wash the area thoroughly with soap and cool water.  You can use any soap you prefer, but I tend to avoid moisturizing soaps that can carry the oils around.  Instead, try Dawn® dish soap, a mild de-greaser, or a good Castile or lye soap (with around a 5% lye deficit). *1  Remember that urushiol is an oily substance!  Hot water will spread it around your whole body, so keep the shower as cool as possible and do not soak in the tub!

Use a washcloth to help remove dead skin cells (exfoliate) that have bonded with the urushiol, and throw away the washcloth after your shower to avoid re-contamination.

Get the Dirt

After the dousing with alcohol, I use dirt, or rather a clay mask blend that I make.  You can make something similar by getting a pound of French green clay (Try Marilyn’s Old Country Store/Health Food Store or Amazon). In a pestle and mortar, combine about 1/4 cup of the clay with anti-inflammatory essential oils and absolutes such as chamomile, frankincense, rosemary, etc. For a nice cooling effect, I add a few drops of peppermint and a bit of elemi for healing. You can use just plain french green clay. Use about 1 teaspoon total of essential oils if you choose to add them. Once combined, mix the 1/4 cup of infused clay back into the remaining pound of clay.

To use this treatment, make a slurry of your clay mask powder and spring water (about 2 Tbl. clay to 1 1/2 Tbl. water) and paint it on the affected area with a disposable chip brush (cheap wood and natural bristle paint brushes). Allow to dry and then shower off in COOL water.

Use Your Clay for Wasp & Bee Stings Too

While we are on the subject, I’m taking a paragraph to also suggest making a thick paste out of your green clay (with or without essential oils) and using it to help take the sting out of stings. It is an excellent treatment for bee and wasp stings (after removing the stinger of course).

A Not So Natural Additive

And finally, if you are using your clay only for treating skin issues such as stings and poison ivy, you might try what I do for serious outbreaks, and add the contents of Benadryl® capsules.  If you choose to add this, do not exceed over 2% of the Diphenhydramine HCI (by weight) in your dry clay blend, do not use the mask on over 20% of your body, and never use on anyone under 12 years of age. If you are not absolutely certain about your math, skip the Benadryl®*2


After this procedure, be sure to moisturize again with a good anti-inflammatory lotion.  Again, Wind n Wood creates several natural lotions and creams with anti-inflammatory properties, but L’oreal® and Oil of Olay® make some acceptable face creams for about $20 for 1.7 ounces that will do the trick.  Look for hyaluronic acid and anti-inflammatory ingredients such as green tea extract, chamomile, calendula, white willow bark, witch hazel, aloe, soy isoflavones, pomegranate, seaweed extract, niacin, Co-enzyme Q10, vitamin E, etc.  Some of these natural additives are also anti-oxidants, which is helpful to reduce skin damage.*3

When creating a lotion for damaged skin, I usually add a bit of oregano essential oil as an anti-microbial to help stave off infections on especially bad blisters or cracks.  You can add a drop or two of oregano essential oil to any good lotion when you are treating a bad case of poison ivy.

There are some over-the-counter aids that also help such as Tecnu®, Calamine®, Zanfel® and the like. I have had some respectable success with these, and they are nice in a pinch when I’m out of town and away from my “apothecary.”

Five Steps to Poison Ivy Freedom

  1. Rinse your skin with alcohol as soon as possible, preferably within 20 minutes.
  2. Wash thoroughly with soap and cool water.
  3. Treat with the clay mask recipe included on this page.
  4. Once dry, rinse the mask off in cool water.
  5. Moisturize skin using the lotion tips covered here.


  1. All Wind n Wood soaps are made with a 5% to 8% lye deficit.  This means that there are un-saponified oils in the soap to ensure that it is not overly drying to the skin, and that there is never any lye persistent in the finished soap (a common problem for novice soap makers).  The excess oils we use are carefully selected for their skin moisturizing and nourishing abilities (such as olive oil, apricot kernel oil, avocado oil, sweet almond oil, shea butter, etc.).  The oils are added near the end of the saponification process to help guarantee that they are the oils left un-saponified.
  2. The content of this site is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.  If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor, go to the emergency department, or call 911 immediately.
  3. Skin cells are rich in polyunsaturated fatty acids that are susceptible to oxidative damage.  When macrophages in the skin respond to inflammation such as poison ivy exposure, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are released and can damage cells.  UV radiation can also cause ROS, independent from the phagocytic leukocytes (macrophage), so stay out of the sun!  It is for this reason that I use a certain species of frankincense in many of my creations at Wind n Wood.  It contains a high amount of boswelic acid, which inhibits the enzymatic pathway in leukocytes that produces leukotrienes (inflammation mediators).  This inhibitor blocks the loss of collagen and elastic fibers in the skin, while increasing fibroblastic synthesis of collagen.  I also use a white licorice extract which can inhibit leukotriene synthesis, slow the metabolism of cortisol,and inhibit the synthesis of inflammatory histamines.
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